Not for four seasons have Tyne and Wear locked horns consistently, and the return of the fixture cannot come soon enough for me.
Not only is the diluted Tyne-Tees derby a poor substitute, Middlesbrough's presence in the Premiership has nothing like the galvanizing effect that the addition of the Black Cats would have.
United, like many of the top flight, find themselves in a "comfort zone" which is getting increasingly difficult to escape from.
Above them, a leading quartet of Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool – difficult to compete with, more difficult to break into.
Below them, clubs with such a lack of resources that survival is almost impossible from day one – Watford, West Ham and, the now fighting, Charlton have been virtually doomed since Christmas.
|Sunderland manager Roy Keane|
It all leaves Newcastle, amongst others, in a no-win, no-lose, scenario.
No threat of relegation, no genuine aspiration of serious silverware.
Not only would the arrival of Roy Keane's arch rival Sunderland provide an added impetus, their promotion would coincide with the dramatic increase in prize money via the new TV deal.
As a result not only the division's new-boys, but also this season's survivors would have record funds available to strengthen depleted squads.
Yes, the same money can also be used by the top four to strengthen their already strangle-like hold on the division, but aren't they already armed to the hilt?
Simply the fact that United could find themselves sitting five places below those from the Stadium of Light must be used as the most powerful incentive available for improved performances.
|Glenn Roeder: Season over?|
Just cast your mind back to last season.
In an otherwise disastrous campaign, Sunderland pulled out all the stumps both, on Tyne and Wear, only to bring the best out of United and lose both games.
Weren't the Black and White wins at both St James's and the Stadium of Light just about the biggest highlights of the entire campaign?
Ask Michael Chopra, Glenn Roeder and Alan Shearer (for varying reasons), to name but three, whether they will ever forget that second half on Wearside last Spring?
I seriously doubt it!
So, while not common place, let's occasionally cast an interested eye the way of the Championship over the coming weeks, and who knows we might just be welcoming back as good a local derby as there is.
You know it makes sense!